A drug-driver who ploughed into a van, killing herself and her five-year-old son, may have had an epileptic fit at the wheel.
Rebecca Smith’s BMW hit a white Mercedes Sprinter at after veering onto the opposite side of the road.
Her son, Corey Rhodes, died shortly after arriving at hospital and the 24-year-old mother lost her fight for life the next day.
Rebecca Smith (left) may have suffered an epileptic fit, causing the crash that killed her and five-year-old son Corey (right)
Ms Smith had been diagnosed with epilepsy at 13. Her oldest son Kyle, who survived the smash, said she suffered a fit and had taken her hands off the steering wheel.
Witnesses also described her as having a fit at the scene of the crash, an inquest heard.
The mother-of-two was twice the legal drug-drive limit for cannabis, North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court was told.
The fatal crash happened in Draycott on August 16 last year as she and her sons were heading to Poundland in Uttoxeter.
Witness Craig Barks told the hearing he saw the white van lift up in the air following the impact.
Tributes were laid at the scene of the crash after the 24-year-old’s car ploughed into a van on the opposite side of the road on the A50 in Staffordshire
I was travelling along Uttoxeter Road towards the A50 in a Citroen Picasso,’ he said in a statement. ‘I was driving behind a Mercedes Sprinter at 35mph.
‘I heard an almighty bang and I saw the van in front of me lift up about four or five feet from the surface.
‘I got out of the van and approached a silver car and saw a woman sat in the driver’s seat.
‘She appeared to be fitting as her head was down to the left side and was twitching and she had foam in her mouth.’
Linda Woolliscroft was travelling in the same direction as Rebecca in her Land Rover when she heard a loud bang.
In a statement read out at the hearing, she said: ‘I saw a car approaching from behind, it was a silver car that I thought was going to overtake me.
‘Then I heard an almighty bang and I wasn’t sure what had caused the bang. I looked across and noticed there had been a crash.
‘I parked my car on a grass verge, put my hazards on and went over to try to help. I noticed it was the silver car that was behind me moments before.
James Rhodes told the inquest that he had been told his long-term girlfriend had a fit at the wheel
‘I noticed there were two young children in the back of the car and the driver of the van was on the phone to the emergency services.’
She said she heard the driver of the van say ‘I couldn’t stop’ during the call.
‘I went over to the BMW and one man was trying to assess those in the car,’ she added. ‘I noticed the young boys in the back and they started CPR on Corey.’
The inquest was told it is not known whether Rebecca suffered a fit before the crash or as a result of the accident.
Corey Rhodes was rushed to hospital but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.
Rebecca, from Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, lost her fight for life after undergoing emergency surgery in hospital a day later. Six-year-old Kyle Rhodes survived after being airlifted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Rebecca’s long-term partner James Rhodes told the court that when he visited Kyle he told him Rebecca had suffered a fit.
He said: ‘As soon as I walked through the door, the first thing he said to me was “Mum’s had a fit” and that she had no hands on the steering wheel. He would have seen Becky having fits before and he knows what one is.’
James added: ‘She started to suffer some more regular fits about eight months before she died in the early part of last year.
‘When I was at work the kids would tell me she had a fit and they were around once every three months. On the one occasion she had three fits in one day.
‘Her medication was increased and she still had fits. She took her medication but sometimes she’d miss it.
‘Becky didn’t use any illegal drugs apart from having around three cannabis cigarettes a night when the kids had gone to bed.
‘Corey was in reception and was a happy-go-lucky child. Kyle would always wear his seat belt, but Corey from time to time would put part of the belt behind his neck.
‘Corey and Kyle could be a distraction in the car if they were fighting as five and six-year-old brothers do.’
Collision investigator PC Roger Wetton said there was no evidence that Rebecca had informed the DVLA about her epilpesy.
PC Wetton said: ‘The BMW drove along the central hatch marks into the lane of the Mercedes. The van driver didn’t see it as a problem until he had insufficient time to.
‘A collision occurred between the front of both vehicles, both rotated in an anti-clockwise direction. Witnesses say the driver appeared to be having a fit.
‘Her condition was not disclosed to the DVLA, which would have resulted in her licence being removed.’
PC Wetton said that both Kyle and Corey had not been safely secured in child booster seats.
He said: ‘Neither child had a hard seat and Corey was not wearing his seatbelt properly which could have protected him from hitting the rear of the front seat.’
After the tragedy Mr Rhodes wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m so broken and don’t know what I’m going to do without these two in my life. I would like to thank everyone for all the kind messages means a lot to me.’
He added: ‘To people that do not know yet, today has been the worst day of my life. I have had to say goodbye to my little man Corey, the most hardest thing any dad should go through.
‘My whole world has fallen apart and I am broken. All I can say is rest in peace my little angel. Look over us now mate, daddy loves you so much.’
Assistant Coroner for North Staffordshire David James recorded that both Rebecca and Corey died from multiple injuries as a result of a road traffic collision.